The crack of gunfire can be heard just over the hill. We’ve attempted to push on this warehouse several times but the opposing team is well dug in. I think. It could just be a couple of guys taking pot shots. It’s hard to tell when you’re hugging the ground like it’s a lover going off to war. Or, if you’d rather be less eloquent, like a puppy who has just been caught pissing over the kitchen floor. I’ve been trading gunfire with muzzle flashes and tracer rounds for 10 minutes. The squad leader orders some covering smoke. The player next to me opens up with his SAW to suppress the enemy. We advance into the smoke towards glory or death.
Squad is the spiritual successor to Project Reality, a Battlefield 2 mod that began way back in the murky depths of time that is 2004 and received widespread critical success simply because it was dam good. Given that Offworld Industries is made of former members of the mod’s core team, this is hardly surprising. It’s a multiplayer experience, with the only single player content currently being the firing range where you can get a quick grasp of the controls. Teams of up to 50 players on each side fight over objective points on expansive maps. Currently it is infantry battles only, but the devs have promised large-scale combined arms warfare at release. The best way to describe the feel of Squad (And how the devs themselves rightly do so, in their own words) is the middle ground between the slow-paced, shoot the dot on the horizon, battles of the Arma series, and the Hollywood meat grinders of Battlefield.
With few features implemented right now, Squad is a bit of a samey experience. Spawn, open map to find out which direction to run in, run that way till you hear gunfire, hit the ground, get snipped from half a mile away. However I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have fun. Especially when people would use their mics and work as a team. Although the majority of your, potentially, short life is spent running to the action. Squad leaders can put down spawn points, but these have limited uses and the front moves so often that you’ll still have to lug it for a good 5 minutes towards the battle. The addition of vehicles in future will obviously help with these problems. Squad also suffers from having a lack of an effective tutorial. You are capable of building defences at certain points on the map but I could never figure out how it worked. But this being early access and all it’s not entirely a massive issue and will hopefully be addressed in further updates.
Despite my complaints, the core mechanics of Squad are great. The movement feels fluid, the weapons feel powerful. The nature of the combat gives it a weekend paintball feel that I very much enjoy. It’s an excellent foundation on which to build off.
For an Early Access title Squad boasts some excellent graphical prowess. I did find at times that textures were a bit fuzzy and the character models are a tad basic. But the animations are off to a good start. None of this detracts from the experience and can, hopefully, be improved upon as the game develops. On the sound front everything is top-notch. To my, admittedly untrained, ears everything sounds authentic and threatening.
The game runs like a treat on my mid range PC and I didn’t come across any obvious bugs in my playtime.
Squad is difficult to score even ignoring it being early access. If you don’t approach it with the right mindset and a group of people to play with your unlikely to have much fun. But if you’re part of a group that plays the likes of Arma or Battlefield, chances are you’ll have a great time with it. It’s a bit sparse, and a bit confusing, but a great start to what should be an excellent game.
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